Professor Cherny Discusses Controversial Murals at a San Francisco High School

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

RICHMOND REVIEW (SAN FRANCISCO) -- One of the speakers, Robert Cherny, a professor emeritus at San Francisco State University who wrote a biography of the mural’s artist, Victor Arnautoff, explained the context of the times in which the mural was created, saying that the artist presented a “counter narrative” to the prevailing high school textbooks of the time because his representation of the westward expansion included the slaughter of Native Americans, and he presented Washington as a slave owner, both facts the official narrative back then tended to either ignore or gloss over.

“He put those ghastly gray pioneers literally walking over the dead body of an Indian to demonstrate that the settlement of the west was an act of conquest that involved the slaughter of Native Americans,” Cherny said. “That was a very bold effort on his part to counter the kinds of textbooks that students were seeing and I hope he won’t be penalized for that in the future.”